Tupaz vows to keep shining

The beer on his hand was getting warm as Pocari Sweat assistant coach Parley Tupaz narrates what went wrong in their game earlier against Air Force.

The Lady Warriors just lost their second game of the season, but it had a massive implication as their four-set defeat to the Jet Spikers pushed them to the No. 2 spot in V.League Season 13 Open Conference semifinals.

With that, they will have to take the high road and face BaliPure and its very popular wing spiker in Alyssa Valdez in a best-of-three semis duel. They odds will be stacked against them. It’s going to be one hell of a battle.

Valdez, the two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player and darling of more than half of volleyball fans in the country, will surely be a force to be reckoned with after gaining a reputation of being a big-time player who performs best under extreme pressure.

Her teammates, former Ateneo stars Dzi Gervacio, Amy Ahomiro, Jem Ferrer, Denden Lazaro and Ella de Jesus, also have championship pedigree as well as Gretchel Soltones of San Sebastian and Janine Marciano of San Beda. They are being coached by Charo Soriano, another former Ateneo star and a true leader inside and outside the court.

Simply put, these Water Defenders are no pushover.

Tupaz takes a drink.

Then, he shakes his head.

This is going to be a very long series.

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Secret weapon

Tupaz’s body language during that drinking session a week ago is quite similar to his pronouncement Tuesday morning.

But this time, Tupaz and the Lady Warriors had already eliminated the Water Defenders following a grueling Game 3 where they limited Valdez to only 15 points en route to booking a finals showdown with the rampaging Jet Spikers.

Multiple sources branded Tupaz as the secret weapon behind Pocari Sweat’s success after serving five years as assistant coach at Ateneo. He arrived at the Lady Eagles’ lair on the same year as Valdez and helped turn the program around, winning a pair of titles that gained them massive followers.

But Tupaz is no ordinary coach.

In fact, the dislocated pinky finger on his right hand serves as badge of honor after surviving numerous battles against the best players in Asia.

He was one of the country’s best beach volleyball players and conspired with Rhovyl Verayo in representing the country in the Doha Asian Games in 2006. They finished 13th after winning two of their four games.

He also saw action in the 2007 Southeast Asian Games in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand before hanging up his jersey to coach College of Saint Benilde and Jose Rizal University before landing at Ateneo.

In the V.League, he and Ateneo coach Tai Bundit signed up with Pocari Sweat after its original coach, Francis Vicente, opted to stay at the Philippine Superliga (PSL). Bundit, however, had to leave for Bangkok, leaving the job wide open for Tupaz and fellow assistant coach Rommel Abella to grab.

Abella, who was part of that glorious University of Santo Tomas squad of mid-2000s together with Kungfu Reyes and Rico de Guzman of Army, Clarence Esteban of Air Force and Ian Fernandez of Foton, would sit as head coach while Tupaz assumed the dirty works ranging from scouting and analytics to preparing the team during crucial matches.

So when Pocari Sweat crushed BaliPure in the eliminations, fingers were pointed at Tupaz, saying that his excellent scouting, preparation and vast knowledge on the Ateneo system served as the secret weapon to the Lady Warriors success.

They said he was the shining gem behind the Lady Warriors’ bench.

He smiled and humbly deflected the credit, saying that: It’s a total team effort. Nobody should be credited but the entire team.

Defense was the key

Tupaz insisted that they didn’t do anything special against BaliPure.

Instead, he pointed at their preparation and strengthened defense that led to their victory four-set victory, 15-25, 27-25, 25-11, 25-23.

[quote]We respect Alyssa’s offense so much that we had to deploy three blockers at her; two at the net and the other one at the back just in case she decides to (do an) off-speed.

The defense was a total team effort that even our wing spikers like Myla Pablo were also helping defensively.[/quote]

But it was Rossan Fajardo who delivered the fatal blow by challenging the defense of Valdez.

[quote]We were down by two in the fourth set when we gambled on Rossan.

We pulled out Desiree (Dadang) and assigned Rossan to do the service. She hit two aces to tie the game and help us gain momentum that gave us the win.

BaliPure was such a strong team. It is a very disciplined team. Maybe we just caught them in a sluggish form. But believe me, this team is the strongest if only it had longer time together.[/quote]

Tupaz said the job is not yet done.

The victory over BaliPure is nothing but a mere gravy; they actually haven’t won anything.

So he politely excused himself and said that he’s going to training. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. He knows that these hungry Jet Spikers are no lightweights.

Pocari Sweat may have won the battle, but not the war.

And Tupaz vowed to keep on shining.

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